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    Marillion - Seasons End

    Year of Release: 1997
    Label: EMI/Capitol
    Catalog Number: CDP 7 928772
    Format: CD
    Total Time: 86:16:00

    While preparing for seeing Marillion at their September 27 show at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, CA, I dipped back into the band's back catalog, as well as listening to the latest Marbles. It was great to listen to these favorites again, and to fall in love with them again, as well.

    When Seasons End came out in 1989, it was somewhat of a surprise for me. Actually, a double surprise. The first came while I was sitting in my apartment in San Diego one evening, studying and listening to a radio show that played cuts off of new or upcoming releases. I wasn't paying much attention really, but nothing came on that distracted me from studying, either. It wasn't until the DJ came on after the song ended, that my ears perked up, hearing a key word: Marillion. New Marillion? I thought. Well, boy, then I was distracted. I don't remember what song it was now, but the very next day I headed out to my local Tower Records and bought the album. Needless to say, I was surprised for the second time when I got home, took off the plastic wrap and popped the cassette in (I hadn't yet made the move to CDs) - that was not Fish's voice.

    My initial reaction to Seasons End was mixed, but improved once I got past the "it's not Fish" phase? Steve Hogarth didn't have the same kind of presence that Fish had, and I'll admit I tried to hear these songs with Fish on vocals. Of course, it wouldn't work either, because with H having penned the lyrics (with John Helmer), they were written for his voice, his cadence, his way of singing. There are moments here were one could envision Fish singing the lyrics - particularly on the propulsive section of "Berlin" - but these moments are rare.

    Musically, Seasons End picks up where Clutching At Straws left off. And that's to be expected, as, if my memory is correct, some of the music was written while Fish was still in the band. I often thought that H tried very hard to find a balance between his natural vocal inclination and some throughline from Fish's style. It's a transitional album, and though the epic-length, ecologically themed "Seasons End" provides the album's title, you can also read something a little more into that title, given that it is a transitional album. This was an album the band had to make - I don't necessarily mean contractually, though that may also have been the case. The first post-Fish album had to strike the very balance H was trying to achieve, and only in retrospect do we see that it achieved its goal. Fifteen years later, could we imagine any of these songs sung by anyone other than H? I don't think so. And frankly, if Marillion had replaced Fish with a Fish clone, I don't think we'd be taking about the band in the present tense 15 years later. They wouldn't have been able to create their own identity away from Fish. H's emotional and heart-felt deliveries, especially on the title track and "Easter" are what convinced me that I was going to love this Marillion as much as I did the "old" Marillion.

    One other thing I noticed about this album, in contrast to those that had come before, is that what we hear is a band. If you go back and listen to the first four, there are few if any backing vocals, for one - at least not of the sort heard here and afterward. I'm not saying that Marillion had previously been Fish with backing musicians, but? the overall balance between vocals and instrumentation seems more band-like. And though I'm not at the moment listening to the remastered version that came out 1997, you can really hear each instrument. And it's one of the things I love about this album, and this band. Each note communicates something, whether it's a steady throbbing bass line from Pete Trewavas (e.g. on "Seasons End") or a eloquent guitar solo from Rothery (many examples, on the classic "Easter" for one), lush beds of keyboards and keyboard effects from Mark Kelly (many examples again), or the punctuation of percussion from Ian Mosley (everywhere, "Uninvited Guest" for one)? each of these help to communicate the message, underscore the emotion, help the story along? there's just no filler here.

    Okay, let's answer critics for just a moment, who might point to the rocker "Hooks In You," which seems a departure for the band. Well? yes and no. Relationships have always been a part of Marillion's music? Fish was exorcising his own demons over failed relationships in every album except maybe Clutching?? and even then maybe not when you consider "Sugar Mice." So, in that regard, no, "Hooks?" isn't a departure. And, strip away the subject matter, and this song could fit alongside "Incommunicado." Certainly the same rock energy is there. Or they - the critics - might point to "Uninvited Guest" as the departure? again, yes and no. Like "Hooks" and "Incommunicado," it's a track that has more of a pop angle, falling into the verse-chorus-verse pattern, being compact (it's a radio friendly 3:50), and being catchy. Ah, but it's deceptive, because the lyrics draw you in? there's a subtext, a message behind it, which might mean different things to different people, though I do remember reading that H was thinking of the AIDS epidemic in at least once sense of the "uninvited guest." But, the metaphor is broader? and for those not up on your lit, Banquo is a ghostly character in Shakespeare's Macbeth.

    It's kind of hard to review an album that one loves and has become so familiar with that they don't need to actually have it playing to hear it ? so I can't be truly objective here. I can tell you that Seasons End is a solid Marillion album, though maybe not their best ever. It comes close, though. For the longest time, "After Me" was a track that I didn't entirely connect with. It wasn't my favourite on the album (that would be "Easter"), but it worked its charms on me.

    With "The King Of Sunset Of Town," the album begins very subtly with Kelly's atmospheric keys, Trewavas' bass, and slowly builds into an explosion of sound, culminating in the first of many Rothery solos. This dynamic is a Marillion characteristic, which even through subsequent style changes, the band has never really lost. It's the song that bridges the gap between "old" Marillion and "new" Marillion. The classic "Easter" follows, and this is a song that accomplishes many things, one of which is to establish this "new" Marillion. It's softer, more open than really anything Marillion had done before. No hard edges, no punctuated lines? oh, and that Rothery solo? magnificent. "Holloway Girl," which H wrote about the women at the Holloway prison, and those who he felt (looking at the notes in the '97 remaster) might have been served by a mental health institution rather than prison - thus the lyrics, "one day, freedom will unlock your door / so hold on, believe on / be who you were before?" Again, one can also read this metaphorically? in terms of anyone who feels unjustly imprisoned (emotionally or physically). So these lyrics become rallying cries. The US fan club used have the lyric "In deepest darkness the faintest light looks bright?" printed on their newsletter. It's another track that displays the Marillion dynamic, where comparatively mellow verses - here underscored by a percolating bass and keyboards - explode in to epic choruses - given their drive by the drums.

    "Berlin" was written before the fall of the wall that separated that city. I remember H remarking upon that when I saw them play here in the US in 1990, saying that the song had, within a few months of being written, dated itself. It has, and it hasn't. One might suggest that the wall being built in the Gaza Strip will take on the same character that the Berlin wall did? Lyrically, it is a track that has a similar poetic style as Fish, which may be why it's the only track that one could "see" Fish singing. The great touch on this song, and one that we had not heard on a Marillion album before is a sax? a lovely, elegant sax solo that bridges the first part of the song to the second? it's a bluesy, jazzy tone that transitions us from West Berlin and the party girl to East Berlin and the young man trying to cross "no mans land" to get to the West. Actually, it evokes nighttime, which leads us into the sharp image of bright spotlights centered on the man escaping? The third section marches along, and is what I referred to above as the propulsive section - lots of drums and percussion and throbbing bass? the quickened pulse of the beat is palpable. Which makes the transition (yes, that word again) to "After Me" jarring. It's a soft, lyrical, upbeat (even if somewhat lyrically dark) piece? it's a piece that presages their next album, Holidays In Eden. And if "Easter" were more open than previous Marillion material, then "The Space?" is even more expansive, as the title suggests. A lot of this vastness is achieved by the keyboards and the lanquid and easy delivery from H. It is the shortest of the epics at a little over six minutes, but in some ways, seems much bigger. Perhaps it's the dramatic interplay of the keyboards - playing a pulsating note that seems to hang in the air - with those languid vocals.

    Everything I have ever loved and still love about Marillion is present on this album. For the longest time it and Brave contended for the top spot on my favourite H-era Marillion album - much in the way that Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws do of the Fish era. This gets a very biased 5/5 from me, and most of that 5 comes from "Easter," "Seasons End," "Berlin" and "The Space?"

    A few words about the remaster version and it's bonus disc. This begins with the 12" version of "Uninvited Guest" (which suggests to me that song on the radio I heard was the single version of this track). It's, as 12"-ers go, longer than the album version. It begins with some extra keyboards at the beginning (a bit "Christmasy" in tone? ), features the keys more up in the mix, and seems a bit slower than the album version. Oh, and the band "break it down" at one point - percussion, keys and vocals. I guess targeting this for the dance market? (Oh, and the "cuckoos" at the end are louder). The next two tracks first appeared as b-sides on singles, the first being the terrific but somewhat unfinished sounding "Bell In The Sea." The chiming Rothery guitar here (and the demo version that end the bonus disc) recalls that used later on "Estonia," another song about water and death. The second is the lively "The Release." Both strong tracks, the first would have fit well, I think, on SE; "The Release" is closer to where the band went on Holidays?. On the other hand, if you listen to the keyboards, you hear echoes of what was heard on "Uninvited Guest." The next five tracks are demos of most of what became Seasons End - "King Of Sunset Town?," "Holloway Girl," "Seasons End," "The Uninvited Guest," and "Berlin." Rounding out the demos, "The Bell In The Sea?" As they are demos, they sound a bit raw, but what they became is clear as they didn't change much -- a little more echo on "Holloway Girl" perhaps (and a little drier); a longer solo-instrumental interlude on "Seasons End;" "Berlin" is absent the sax solo and shimmering percussion recalls Misplaced Childhood. The demo version of "Bell?" seems to rock a little harder than the final version, but both really retain this shimmery, water feel.

    Reissued in 1997/1998, remastered with a bonus disk, cat. #: 57713, and again in 2000 by Never (4510)

    The King Of Sunset Town (8:01) / Easter (5:57) / The Uninvited Guest (3:50) / Seasons End (8:08) / Holloway Girl (4:27) / Berlin (7:43) / After Me* (3:19) / Hooks In You (2:54) / The Space? (6:14)

    The Uninvited Guest (12" Version) (5:03) / The Bell In The Sea (4:19) / The Release (3:44) / The Mushroom Farm Demos: The King Of Sunset Town (5:32) / Holloway Girl (4:47) / Seasons End (3:01) / The Uninvited Guest (3:53) / Berlin (3:02) / The Bell In The Sea (4:52)

    Steve Hogarth - vocals
    Steve Rothery - guitar
    Pete Trewavas - bass
    Ian Mosley - drums and percussion
    Mark Kelly - keyboards

    Script For A Jester's Tear (1983)
    Fugazi (1984)
    Reel To Real (1984)
    Misplaced Childhood (1985)
    Brief Encounter (ep) (1985)
    Clutching At Straws (1987/1999)
    The Thieving Magpie (1988)
    B-Sides Themselves (1988)
    Season's End (1989)
    Holidays In Eden (1991)
    A Singles Collection 1982-1992 (1992)
    Live At The Borderline (1992)*
    Live In Caracas (1993)*
    Live In Glasgow (1993)*
    Brave (1994)
    The Making Of Brave (1995)*
    Afraid Of Sunlight (1995)
    Made Again (1996)
    Kayleigh (1996) (Dutch comp)
    Essential Collection (1996) (UK comp; same as above)
    Real To Reel/Brief Encounter (1997)
    Best Of Both Worlds (1997)
    This Strange Engine (1997)
    Rochester (1998)*
    Piston Broke (1998)*
    Tales From The Engine Room (1998)
    Radiation (1998)
    Christmas 1998: The Web Christmas (1998)**
    Kayliegh: The Essential Collection (1998) (UK comp.; diff. from above)
    Unplugged At The Walls (1999)*
    Marillion.com (1999)
    Zodiac (1999)*
    Christmas 1999: marillion.christmas (1999)**
    marillion.co.uk (or bonus disk) (Ver 1-2000)
    The Singles: '82 - '88 (box set) (2000/2009)
    Christmas 2000: A Piss-Up In A Brewery**
    Crash Course (Sampler) (2000)
    ReFracted! (2001)*
    Anoraknophobia (2001)
    Another DAT At The Office (2001)*
    Christmas 2001: A Verry Barry Christmas (2001)**
    Fallout (2002)*
    Anorak In The UK Live (2002)*
    marillion.co.uk (or bonus disk) (Ver 2-2002)
    Brave Live 2002 (2002)*
    Caught In The Net (2002)*
    Crash Course (Sampler) (2002)*
    The Singles: '89 -'95 (2002)
    Brave Live (2002)*
    AWOL (2002)**
    Christmas 2002: Santa And Elvis (2002)**
    The Best of Marillion (2003)
    View From The Balcony (2003)**
    Christmas 2003: Say Cheese! Christmas With Marillion (2003)**
    Curtain Call (2004) (3CD Box)*
    Crash Course (2004)*
    Marbles (2004)
    Remixomatosis (2004)*
    Christmas 2004: Baubles (2004)**
    Popular Music (CD oop, avail. as download only) (2005)**
    marillion.co.uk (or bonus disk) (Ver 3-2005)
    View From The Balcony (Sampler) (Ver 2-2005)
    Marbles By The Sea (2005)*
    Marbles Live (2005)*
    Handful Of Marbles (Sampler) (2005)*
    Christmas 2005: Merry Xmas To Our Flock (2005)**
    Unzipped (The Making Of 'Anoraknophobia') (2005)*
    Crash Course (Ver 4 - 2006)
    Smoke (2006)*
    Mirrors (2006)*
    Marbles Vinyl Edition (2006)
    Christmas 2006: Jingle Book (2006)**
    Somewhere Else (2007)
    Crash Course (Ver 5 - 2007)*
    Christmas 2007: Somewhere Elf (2007)**
    Family (2007)*
    Friends (2007)*
    Crash Course (Ver 6 - 2008)*
    Happiness Is The Road - Volume 1: Essence (2008)
    Happiness Is The Road - Volume 2: The Hard Shoulder (2008)
    Early Stages - The Official Bootlegs 1982-1987 (6CD Box) (2008)
    Christmas 2008: Pudding On The Ritz (2008)**
    Happiness Is Cologne (2009)*
    Live From Loreley (2009)
    Recital Of The Script (2009)
    Less Is More (2009)
    Size Matters (2010)*
    Tumbling Down The Years (2010)*
    The Official Bootleg Box Set, Vol. 2 (2010)
    Live From Cadogan Hall (2010)*
    Live In Montreal / Saturday (2010)*
    Live In Montreal / Sunday (2010)*
    Keep The Noise Down (sampler) (2010)
    marillion.com Deluxe Digipack (2011)
    Somewhere Else (2LP) (2011)
    Marbles Deluxe Digipack (2011)
    Marbles (2LP) (2011)
    Live In Montreal / Friday (2011)*
    Season's End Live 2009 (2011)*
    This Strange Engine Live 2007 (2011)*
    Afraid Of Sunlight Live 2003 (2011)*

    Recital Of The Script (VHS/DVD) (1983/2003)
    Grendel/The Web (VHS EP) (1984)
    1983-86 The Videos (VHS [oop]) (1986)
    Live From Loreley (VHS/DVD) (1987/2004)
    From Stoke Row To Ipanema (VHS/DVD) (1990/2003)
    A Singles Collection 1982-1992 (DVD) (1992)
    Brave, The Film (VHS/DVD) (1995/2004)
    Shot In The Dark (VHS/DVD [oop]) (2000/2002)
    The EMI Singles Collection (DVD [PAL only])(2002)
    A Piss-up In A Brewery (DVD) (2002/2010)
    Brave Live 2002 (DVD) (2002)
    Christmas In The Chapel (DVD) (2003)
    Before First Light (DVD) (2003)
    Wish You Were Here (DVD box, oop) (2005)
    Colours And Sound (DVD) (2006)*
    Marbles On The Road (DVD) (2005)
    Bootlet Butlins (DVD) (2007)*
    Somewhere In London (DVD) (2007)
    This Strange Convention (DVD) (2009)
    Snow De Cologne (DVD) (2009)**
    Out Of Season (box set) (DVD) (2010)
    Ding Dong Loreley On High (live) (DVD) (2010)
    In-Tube DVD Sampler (DVD) (2010)
    Out Of Season (DVD boxset) (2010)
    Live In Montreal (3DVD) (2011)

    * Racket Records releases; ** Fan Club only

    Genre: Progressive Rock

    Origin UK

    Added: October 3rd 2004
    Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
    Artist website: www.marillion.com
    Hits: 2201
    Language: english

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